Friday, October 20, 2017

Make that vacation rental home shine by Kevin Ronan

Vacationers want to relax, unwind and leave the daily grind behind. If you are fortunate enough to own a second vacation home or if you are considering a second home in the magnificent Sebago Lakes Region and would like to rent it out, consider these tips below. Certain amenities will create that wow-experience that all vacationers want in a vacation rental.
Having high speed Wi-Fi connectivity is a must in modern vacation rentals. Your guests will appreciate this on those days when our New England weather deters outdoor activities. In addition, many people are fortunate enough to work from wherever they may be; a high-speed Internet is a must on their list.

Stock your bathrooms with toiletries. All bathrooms should include: shampoo, hand soap, body wash, toilet paper and towels. We do this at our vacation rental at Sugarloaf and for very little cost; guests always rave about how well stocked the condo is. 

All the closets should have adequate hangers and a coat rack or hooks located in the mudroom are a must. We have found that having an organizer for all outdoor activities not only saves space but also makes the equipment easy to find.

A well-equipped kitchen is most important. This includes having basic cooking utensils, as well as adequate pots & pans. A place setting for each guest is a must. For very little money we provide basic spices and condiments, trash bags, paper towels dish soap and dishwasher detergent.

Provide essential appliances such as: an iron and ironing board, hair dryer, coffee maker, microwave and can opener. Include laundry detergent and dryer sheets if a washer and dryer are available on the property.

Create a guest book with local restaurant menus, local phone numbers and brochures of area attractions, maps and guidebooks. This “passive concierge” source of information will be greatly appreciated. Much of this information is free and readily available in local stores, town hall, chamber of commerce or visitor centers.   

Have you considered having entertainment options for the whole family for those days when the weather keeps you inside? A selection of games, puzzles, playing cards and books has been a big hit with my renters.  

Pay special attention to repairs and maintenance that can bring some sparkle to your property. CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN! Have the carpets and furniture upholstery shampooed annually. Refresh the paint in any high traffic areas that are “looking tired”.  The cost of paint and supplies is under $100.  

Replace any light bulbs that have burned out; this will help add brightness to those newly cleaned areas. Finally, make sure to post any new pictures with your improvements on social media, both Facebook and are great sites to get the word out. 

In closing, if you want to create a wonderful experience for guests consider these
tips. They come from my own experience, other realtors and other vacation property owners. These have been proven to generate top ratings and future referrals. Always remember that your guests’ comfort is supreme.

Kevin Ronan, Associate Broker affiliated with Alliance Realty, 290 Bridgton Road, in Westbrook, brings this article to you. He can be reached at 207-838-4855 or email: Please contact him if you have any questions or ideas you may have about your vacation rental experience.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Don’t let your home buying or selling decisions haunt you to the grave by Nicole Foster, Broker/ Realtor®

It is always good practice to remain upbeat and point out the positive features of a property, even in the most dire of situations. Let’s celebrate this rare October, Friday the 13th by taking a closer look at the dark side of real estate . . . if you dare!

Horrifying discoveries during showings:

Not all homes for sale are “move in ready”, some will require a bit more vision (and shoe covers).
There are local agents who have arrived at a home only to discover the entire main level of the home has been used for livestock and each room used as a stall, with knee-deep hay and sawdust. We may enter vacant homes during showings, where it is certainly possible to stumble onto an “encampment” or “squatters” (sans running water and electricity). One property my buyer client purchased was just the shell of a home which had been lost to arson (vacant, no injuries) and at least once, my buyers and I have stopped at the entry unable to step inside and go any further due to the strong smells.
Don't let your buying or selling decisions haunt you to the grave. “Was this place a meth lab?”, “Is the house haunted?” or “Was someone murdered in this house?” A good buyer agent can help you to navigate these concerns as well as any black cats in your path, or other unlucky scenarios you may face.

Don’t fall prey to the open house creepers:

Some seller’s feel comfortable with their listing agency hosting a public Open House to market their property, to gain exposure and feedback; while others prefer to only schedule private showings.
For more expensive properties, a Broker Only Tour may be hosted instead of a public Open House. If you have decided to hold an Open House, taking a few precautions before and after can help to assure your safety, as well as the safety of your property.  

Remove any calendars or schedules which are visible so visitors cannot see when you will not be home. Make sure any keys, garage door openers or other items providing access are in a safe place. Obviously, medications should be with you and not left at the home. Valuable jewelry should be hidden or locked away and any firearms locked in a safe or removed. After you return home, it is important that you to check your doors and windows to make sure they have not intentionally been left unlocked for future access.

Terrifying realities of being a real estate agent:

Being a Realtor® may appear to be a glamorous job at times, but it is considered a high-risk occupation. September was National Realtor® Safety Awareness Month and a time for us to reflect on and update our emergency plans. The nature of our work requires us to meet with people we do not personally know in sometimes vacant or remote locations; or we may find ourselves in expansive underground basements which seem to cover a city block. In the 2015 National Association of Realtors® Member Safety Report, 40 percent of agents responded that they “had experienced a situation which made them fear for their personal safety or safety of their personal information”. This past February a safety alert was shared by the Greater Portland Board of Realtors® and another again in August, that stated not much can really be done, other than to spread awareness and to be on your toes since odd behavior and lude comments are not a crime. In 1981 a real estate agent was abducted from showing a listed property and murdered, right here in Cumberland County.

All fun aside; what scares me the most is that the living conditions some of the adults and children in our own community are living in, are so appalling and are happening in our midst each day all around us, which no one sees . . . like ghosts.

Nicole Foster is a Broker with eleven years of experience; specializing in residential, single family and new construction and resides in Windham with her husband and four children.

Friday, October 6, 2017

How to strategically arrive at the real estate closing table by Katie Kinney

When you are thinking about purchasing or selling a home, it makes sense to hire an agent who has the ability to proactively negotiate and communicate; as well as think outside the box to find solutions to ensure the property and people involved end up at the closing table. 

During real estate transactions, there are usually issues that arise and no two transactions are ever the same. The agent representing you and your home should be able to navigate anything that comes up during the process. Here are a few examples that have helped my clients have a smoother real estate transaction.

The real estate market has highs and lows and the right agent will know how to help buyers and sellers navigate the current trends. During a competitive buyers’ market your agent should do everything in their power to help your offer stand out from other offers. A great way to stand out above your competition is to write a personalized letter to the sellers and have your agent send it along with the offer. 

This letter should include personalized info about yourself, your family and the reasons you want to purchase the home. Making a good impression at an open house is another way to keep you in front of the listing agent. If you write an offer, the agent should remember your name and pass that information along to the seller. This could help the seller choose your offer.

Most homebuyers have a home inspection done prior to closing on the property. During the home inspection process, heating/plumbing system, water quality, air quality or structural issues may arise and it can be daunting on how to navigate both parties to come to an agreement and/or solution. 

In many cases the buyer would like item(s) completed and paid for by the seller prior to purchasing the home. If the seller does not have the cash flow to pay for the item(s), what happens then? A great solution, which many people may not know about, is to have the technician performing the work, be paid out of the seller’s proceeds at the closing. This ensures the work is completed prior to the closing and both parties are satisfied with the solution.

During the real estate transaction process, buyers and sellers usually need recommendations for inspectors, tradesmen and financial service professionals. As an agent, you should have a list of people you trust and can recommend for these services. 

If the people you recommend perform quickly, honestly and well; this will reflect back on you. Hopefully if you recommend these people, they will recommend you and send business your way as well.

Katie Kinney is a Broker with Landing Real Estate. She represents buyers and sellers in the Greater Portland Area. For all your real estate needs contact Katie Kinney at or 603-205-2276.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Help me, help you by Amy Krikken

Where do you start when you wish to put your house on the market?

Let's start with decluttering and painting! Remember you are trying to allow the buyer to be able to
picture themselves in the home. The more you cleanse the palette, the easier the buyer can achieve this. Less is definitely more when it comes to preparing your home to sell. NOT lie to your real estate agent. Tell the truth about the flaws of your home, the truth will likely come out in inspections anyway, so simply state it upfront and build trust with your potential buyer. Reasonable people understand that there is no such thing as the perfect home. 

Think about where to best spend any money on repairs and upgrades. It may not be worth it to put that brand new kitchen in because the new buyer may hate the dark granite counter tops you chose - they may have plans for white marble. However, simple fixes (fix that toilet that is always running) and refreshing touches (paint, paint and more paint) will give your home an overall feeling of cleanliness, and that will more likely translate to a higher selling price. to the feedback of the buyers that have toured your home; try to remain objective and consider what the buyer sees, and make necessary changes. 

I've saved the best advice for last: Price it right the first time! Buyers KNOW!  They have been
shopping around looking at other homes. Buyers use the internet to research and can see what homes in your neighborhood sold for. If you decide to try selling at an inflated price point, you may luck out but more likely, you will not get the traffic you hoped for, and your listing will sit on the market and be seen as “old, and that there must be something wrong with it". You will end up with a steeper price reduction than if you had simply priced it at market value in the first place. 

A good Realtor® can advise you on these and other matters, I'd love to be that Realtor® for you!  Call me anytime Amy Krikken Better Homes and Gardens/Masiello 207-317-1338

Friday, September 22, 2017

Real estate transfer tax by Randee McDonald

In Maine, when real property or even a partial interest in property is transferred, there is usually a real estate “transfer tax” due. That’s right, folks – not only do you have to pay the title company for closing and title insurance, the realtor their commission and the bank their fees, but the governor needs his piece of the pie as well! 

The tax is collected by the state at a rate of $2.20 for every $500 of value of the property being transferred from one party to another, the value of the property computed by the Registry of Deeds as set forth in a declaration of value. So a transaction involving a home for $250,000 would result in a tax of $1100. The total amount is split evenly between the buyer and the seller of the property and is paid to the Registry of Deeds at the time the deed is recorded. 

Remember, a deed is the legal written document that transfers title from one person to another. Title, while we are at it, refers to the ownership of a property. These terms can be confusing – deeds and titles are not the same thing, but when you own a property you will possess both the deed and title. document that outlines the real estate transfer tax is called the RETTD (Real Estate Transfer Tax Declaration), and is one of the many documents that gets signed at the real estate closing and is filed along with the deed at the Registry of Deeds Office.

There are a limited number of scenarios where this tax is not applicable. It is always best to communicate with the title company handling the closing well before the transaction occurs, to ensure all documents and fees reflected are accurate and nothing holds up the closing process. 

Some of these exceptions may include: A situation where the deed is simply being modified or there is a correction of an error from a previous filing and the ownership status or price is not affected; deeds between family members, such as between husband and wife, parent and child or grandparent and grandchild; foreclosure deeds; and gifts of real property to government entities from a bona fide nonprofit land conservation organization are all exempt from the tax. of thumb: If you have any questions at all regarding transfer tax for your real estate transaction or if you feel you may be exempt from this fee, it is best to speak directly with the title company who can offer experienced and knowledgeable guidance as it pertains to your specific situation.
Cumberland Title is well versed in the applicability of the exemptions and will work closely with our customers in these circumstances.  

Randee McDonald is the owner and office manager of Cumberland Title and can be reached by phone at 207-899-4900 or email at